Love Your Neighbor As Yourself: A Message from Director of Legal Services Brian Dunkel

 Brian Dunkel

Brian Dunkel


“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” -- Galatians 5:14

There are innumerable ways that a disciple of Jesus can love his or her neighbor. At the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, we are uniquely focused on the civil legal issues that burden our low-income neighbors and keep them from flourishing. Our intake sites, where we first meet new, potential clients, are the front door to our services, and we are grateful to warmly and lovingly serve those whom God brings to us.

Recently, I did an intake with Keith*–a 60-something grandfather of 3 young girls who started living with him and his wife about a year ago. The girls’ parents refused to take responsibility for them, and so Keith and his wife did. While Keith was thrilled to have his granddaughters living in the safety of their home, their monthly expenses increased. Keith and his wife have only a modest amount of Social Security income and he had questions about whether or not he could claim the girls as dependents on his income tax return. He was also concerned about paying on a judgment he owed from years ago. I advised him that their Social Security income was exempt from collection and about the criteria for claiming a dependent family member for income tax purposes. He was grateful. As I wrapped up the intake, I let Keith know that one of the Legal Clinic’s staff attorneys would review his intake within 2 to 4 weeks to determine if we had any more legal assistance to offer to him.

This experience with Keith, though brief, gave him visible relief from the burden of uncertainty he was facing. And my interaction with Keith is not unique. In fact, since 1994, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic has made its services accessible to our low-income neighbors through intake sites located in neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis.

For the past 24 years, these intakes have been a critical way of accomplishing the Legal Clinic’s mission: To promote justice through legal representation and education for our low-income neighbors as a way of demonstrating Christ’s love. Over the years, hundreds of volunteer attorneys have joined in this work—doing thousands of intakes for thousands of people just like Keith and his family. These attorneys are trained in how to provide resources on a wide variety of civil legal issues, helping to expand the Clinic’s reach and to accomplish its mission.

 Clients meeting with a volunteer attorney

Clients meeting with a volunteer attorney

For some clients, meeting with an attorney at an intake site is all they need. Someone to review a document, look up and explain what a law requires, or clear up a misconception about the law.

Others may need deeper levels of service that are just not possible in the relatively brief time of an intake session. For these neighbors, our staff attorneys evaluate whether the Clinic can provide that deeper service. Our staff attorneys will contact the client asking for more information or documentation, taking the time to understand the individual’s legal issue and what they would like to do about it. We also evaluate if we have a volunteer attorney who is willing and able to assist that individual in a deeper way.

Loving our neighbors like Keith through such service is the heart of what we do here at the Clinic, but we cannot do this work alone; it requires an entire community. And we pray you will join us in this work.

In Christ,

Brian Dunkel


*Not his real name.

To learn more about our intake locations, please visit here.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Clinic, please visit here.